Basketball season is back for the North Dakota State College of Science basketball teams. For the second year in a row, the Wildcat squads opened up with the Mon-Dak Preseason Basketball Tournament. Both teams went 2-1 in the weekend event to finish third.
The Science men started off their season with a 76-65 victory over Bismarck State College on Friday, Nov. 1. After leading by 20 at halftime, the Wildcats went deep into their bench to finish the game out and save some legs for the rest of the tournament.
“We came out of the box pretty good. Our starters played well,” NDSCS coach Stu Engen said. “We were looking at three games in three days so we rested most of our guys in the second half and then didn’t compete so well with some of our reserves. I would’ve liked to see the bench play a little better.”
All-American Duoth Gach went down with an injury a few minutes into the opening game and had to sit out the rest of the weekend.
“(Gach) should be just fine. They tried to tape it and he tried to go on day two or day three, but he wasn’t comfortable enough on it,” Engen said.
The following day’s opponent was Dawson Community College. The Buccaneers built a 21-point lead in the first half, but the Wildcats fought back and even took the lead twice in the closing minutes. Dawson had more gas in the tank as they edged an 85-81 dub, which they followed up by winning the tournament championship.
“We just couldn’t get stops when we needed to get stops down the stretch,” Engen said. “We played them tough and went right to the end, but it’s a little disappointing that No. 1, we didn’t start out any better and No. 2 once we took the lead late we couldn’t finish it off.”
Leading the charge was sophomore Noble Cooper. The sniper canned seven 3-pointers in a 34-point eruption.
“(Cooper) was very good. He was stroking it and our guys did a really nice job of finding him. Noble can do that,” Engen said. “He’s stepped it up a notch from last year. He’s a little bit better all the way around and obviously has a big-time knack to score the ball. He was very instrumental in our run.”
Cooper, who scored 21 in the opening game, capped his weekend with a 26-point showing in the third-place game against Lake Region State College. The Wildcats ended the tourney with an 85-70 win.
“Lake Region almost beat Williston the night before. They had a lot of young guards, but they’re good. They’ve got good players and have got a little bit of guard-ball like we do,” Engen said. “Day three is always a unique deal. You wonder how you’re going to respond when you’ve been sleeping in a hotel room for two nights and are playing a third game in an early season. The fatigue factor I think reared its face a little bit.”
Khari Broadway put up 20 points in the battle. A dozen of them came from the free-throw line after a shaky start to the game.
“Khari, who played well the whole tournament, started out 0-7 in that game, but still got to the free-throw line and did some things,” Engen said.
Next up for NDSCS (2-1) is their first home game at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15 in the NDSCS AmericInn Classic. They’ll face Leach Lake with Northeast Nebraska also coming to town to take on Science the following day.
The Lady Wildcats got their three-game stretch started with an 87-66 victory over United Tribes Technical College on Friday, Nov. 1. Science hounded their foes on defense all game long to swipe 29 steals in the victory. Emma Ogitchida and Monique Wooten each came away with a whopping eight steals apiece.
“We have a little bit of an ability to get after it defensively. Hopefully we can keep that up,” NDSCS coach Tom Dryburgh said.
Ogitchida started all three games in the tournament. The sophomore hit double figures twice and had multiple steals in each of the outings.
“I thought Emma Ogitchida played a really solid weekend in all three games,” Dryburgh said. “She brought great energy and did a phenomenal job doing her job everyday and basically provided that spark of energy we needed in every game.”
The other Emma, Emma Nielsen, was the hero of the second game against Bismarck State College on Saturday, Nov. 2. All 15 of her points came on 3-pointers, but it wasn’t enough in a 66-59 defeat.
“Emma brings great energy. She’s a capable scorer for us,” Dryburgh said. “She’s somebody we need to knock down shots and she was definitely able to do that this past weekend.”
Miles Community College was the final opponent on the weekend for NDSCS. After trailing most of the Sunday, Nov. 3 game, the Wildcats rallied back for a 64-59 win.
“It’s tough playing three days in a row,” Dryburgh said. “If nothing else, we showed some toughness mentally and physically that we can buy in in the last quarter of the last game of the weekend and be able to pull out a win. I thought it was pretty impressive.”
It was the first taste of college basketball for the seven freshmen Wildcats. Zaraya March and Emily-Kate Parker were both in the starting lineup all weekend. March hit double digits twice in the scoring column, including a team-high 15 points against Miles.
“I thought they did a pretty good job. The trick with freshmen is you’re going to have some good moments and you’re going to have some bad moments. You’ve got to be able to play through both of them,” Dryburgh said. “I thought that the freshmen that played had some things they did really well and some things that they need to improve on. That’s pretty difficult for this time of the year.”
Next up for Science (2-1) is their home opener against Sisseton Wahpeton College. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11.
“There are some things we obviously got to clean up to continue to improve, but overall I was pleased with our effort and our energy,” Dryburgh said. “We have some room for growth, but I’m excited about this season.”